As most of us have learned throughout our reading of this novel, Pynchon is obviously no stranger to allusions, literary or otherwise. In my first post, I briefly touched on a possible allusion to film by connecting the Adenoid to the 1940 Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator in which Chaplin played a dictator, influenced by Hitler, named Adenoid Hynkel. I decided to continue my research in the allusions to film found in Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow.
Throughout my research, consulting Weisenburger’s companion, the Pynchon Wiki and the World Wide Web, I discovered that Pynchon alludes to many Universal horror films in his novel. Specifically, for the sake of length, I will be focusing on his allusions to 1931’s Dracula and 1939’s Son of Frankenstein. In the novel, Pynchon writes that Osbie Feel’s body language was reminiscent of Bela Lugosi in White Zombie, another film reference from Pynchon (108). Bela Lugosi, apart from acting in White Zombie was also Dracula in the 1931 Universal horror classic Dracula.
In addition, Lugosi played a lead role in 1939’s Son of Frankenstein, a sequel to the horror milestone Frankenstein. So there you have it. With one stone, Pynchon has managed to allude to three movies, all sharing the same actor. And as I have come to know, nothing is purely coincidental in Pynchon’s whimsical world. In another section of the novel, Pynchon writes, “Roger peered over the wheel, hunched Dracula-style inside his Burberry” (38).
Again, Pynchon has referenced the 1931 film Dracula, and through use of the internet and Weisenburger’s companion, I have found that Pynchon continues to reference Frankenstein, Dracula and Bela Lugosi throughout his novel, putting an end to the suspicion I had that these were very well-thought out allusions to the golden age of Universal horror films.
Both of these films are, interestingly enough, chronologically consistent, as they were released prior to the end of the Second World War. This led me to believe that maybe Pynchon was just using these allusions to reinforce the timeframe or to draw more realism into the novel. Although Pynchon may have used these allusions to set the time, I do not believe this was the only reason. Why would Pynchon want to set the timeframe a hundred or so pages into the novel? He wouldn’t.
I think that Pynchon alludes to these classic horror films as parallels to the world he has created: an almost cartoonish world in which monsters exist, but realistic enough to scare people. Pynchon’s novel arguably fits these criteria as well, a world in which bananas are in every item possible for breakfast, but also a world in which rockets explode before one can hear them. A scary, surreal world.
Perhaps these references to these films is also a commentary on why those films were so influential. Let me explain. The films referenced above were both made during WWII and were widely successful. Maybe these films were so successful not solely due to the scares and special effects, but due to the parallels these horror movies made with the ongoing war. Pynchon’s references may simply be further connecting these parallels and bringing them into the narrative.
Again, my thoughts on these matters are again, only mine. I’d like to see what you guys have to say on the matter. Feel free to comment and like.
“Dracula.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0021814/>.
Pynchon, Thomas. Gravity’s Rainbow. New York, NY: Penguin, 2006. Print.
“Son of Frankenstein.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2014. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031951/>.
“Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973).” Movie References. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2014. <http://www.thomaspynchon.com/gravitys-rainbow/extra/movies.html>.
Weisenburger, Steven. A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon’s Novel. Athens: University of Georgia, 2006. Print.
Wood, Robin. “The American Nightmare Horror in the 70s.” (n.d.): 25-32. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.